Soccer tournament bringing thousands to Grand Strand this weekend

Soccer may be a low-scoring sport, but it’s bringing big numbers to the Grand Strand this weekend.

About 3,330 soccer players ages 7 to 13 will compete in the McDonald’s Coast Spring Classic on Saturday and Sunday. That breaks down to 272 teams, 105 referees, four playing venues and a roughly $2.4 million economic impact on the Grand Strand, said Heyward Gulledge, executive director of Coast Futbol Alliance, which organizes the tournament.

The players also bring their share of supporters, he said.

“That means Mom and Dad, Grandma, all the siblings are coming to Myrtle Beach for the tournament,” Gulledge said.

This is the sixth year for the event, which started with just 36 teams and has grown as new fields have opened that would allow more games, he said.

This weekend, games will be played at the new North Myrtle Beach Park & Sports Complex and in Myrtle Beach at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium, Ashley Booth Field and Grand Park near The Market Common. More fields could lead to more players, Gulledge said.

“That’s always been what held growth back,” he said, adding that he envisions the tournament growing to 500 teams in the next three to five years.

Coast FA received $20,000 from Myrtle Beach to market the tournament. Most of the teams are from the Carolinas – 123 from South Carolina, 118 from North Carolina – but 30 are coming from Georgia and one from New Jersey, Gulledge said.

“Nearly 300 teams coming to town – they will stay in our hotels and eat in our restaurants,” city spokesman Mark Kruea said. “The return will be significantly greater” than what the city put into it.

Games start at 8 a.m. each day with the last game starting at 6:20 p.m. The games are free for spectators.